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Accusative Case in German

der Akkusativ

This lesson contains topics:

  1. Revision of nominative case
  2. What is Accusative case?
    1. Rules of declension
  3. Articles in the accusative case
    1. Declension of definite articles in accusative case
    2. Declination of indefinite articles in accusative case
  4. Indicators of quantity in German language
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A little revision of the nominative case

Cases describe what grammatical role a noun or a pronoun plays in a sentence. We have already discussed a bit about cases in lesson 4 (Articles in the nominative case).
When a noun or pronoun is the subject in a sentence, it is considered to be in the nominative case. There are some verbs that are only used in the nominative case. (i.e. they do not take a direct object.) For example,

sein (to be). Er ist Arzt. (He is a doctor.)

heißen (to be called). Er heißt Doktor Müller. (His name is Doctor Müller.)

bleiben (to remain / to stay). Er bleibt immer glücklich. (He always remains happy.)

werden (to become). Sein sohn wird auch Arzt. (His son will also become a doctor.)

German accusative case

The accusative case is simply another name for the objective case. Accusative is the direct object. When a noun or a pronoun is the direct object in a sentence, it is considered to be in the Accusative case. For example,

On small screens, please drag following tables right or left to view the full width.
Subject (Nominative) Verb Object (Accusative)
Herr Schäfer sucht die Medikamente.
Mr. Schäfer is looking for the medicines.
Dr. Müller fährt ein Auto.
Dr. Müller drives / is driving a car.

A question “what” or “whom” can be asked about the accusative (direct object). Most of the verbs in German take a direct object. For example, if you can recall most of the verbs from Lesson 9 (Present tense in German)

haben (to have)

wissen (to know)

brauchen (to need)

denken (to think)

machen (to do / to make)

studieren (to study)

essen (to eat)

sprechen (to speak)

All these verbs take a direct object (accusative). In German, they are called Verben mit Akkusativ (verbs that take direct objects).

Cases are important in German because pronouns and articles before nouns decline (change their endings) according to the case.

For example,
Dr. Müller sucht seinen Kuli. (Dr. Müller is looking for his pen.)
Dr. Müller sucht den Kuli. (Dr. Müller is looking for the pen.)
Der Kuli (pen) is a masculine noun and masculine articles and pronouns decline in the accusative case (objective case).

Rules of declension

In articles, pronouns or quantity indicators that show declension, the rules of declension remain same in all three.
In the accusative case, only the masculine ending changes to "en", and all the rest of the endings remain the same as in nominative.

Nominative Accusative
Masculine -er -en
Faminine -e -e
Neuter -es -es
Plural -e -e

Articles in the accusative case

In lesson 4 (Articles in the nominative case), we have discussed that all articles whether they are definite or indefinite, decline according to the grammatical case.

Declension of definite articles in the accusative case

Nominative Accusative
Masculine der den
Faminine die die
Neuter das das
Plural die die

In the accusative case, masculine article “der” changes into “den”. The feminine article “die” and neuter article “das” do not change. Similarly plural definite article “die” does not decline in the accusative case. For example:

Ich esse den Burger. (I eat /am eating the burger.)
“Der Burger” has changed to “den Burger”, because it is a direct object (in the accusative case) and masculine noun. The article of the direct object "der" declines to "den".

See another example of a masculine noun:
Der Apfel (apple)
Ich esse den Apfel. (I eat / am eating the apple.)

Now recall the table we have discussed earlier:

Subject (Nominative) Verb Object (Accusative)
Herr Schäfer sucht die Medikamente.
Mr. Schäfer is looking for the medicines.
Dr. Müller fährt ein Auto.
Dr. Müller drives / is driving a car.

In the above examples, the articles of “die Medikamente” and “das Auto” have not changed in the accusative case because “das Auto” is a neuter noun and “die Medikamente” is a plural noun. The majority of verbs that we used in previous lessons, in exercises and examples take a direct object (Verben mit Akkusativ), but we intentionally avoid using masculine nouns.

Declination of indefinite articles in the accusative case

The masculine indefinite article “ein” declines to “einen” but the rest of the articles remain the same.

Nominative Accusative
Masculine ein einen
Faminine eine eine
Neuter ein ein

Some examples are:

Subject (Nominative) Verb Object (Accusative)
Ich esse einen Burger.
I eat / am eating a burger.
Ich esse einen Apfel.
I eat / am eating an apple.
Herr Schäfer sucht ein Medikament.
Mr. Schäfer looks for / is looking for a medicine.
Dr. Müller fährt ein Auto.
Dr. Müller drives / is driving a car.

In lesson 4, we have also discussed that the word “kein” behaves similarly to the indefinite article. So, in the accusative case, the declension of “kein” is also similar to the indefinite article i.e. when used with a masculine direct object, the word “kein” declines to “keinen”.

Nominative Accusative
Masculine kein keinen
Faminine keine keine
Neuter kein kein
Plural keine keine

For example:

Ich esse keinen Burger. (I do not eat a burger.)

Ich esse keinen Apfel. (I do not eat an apple.)

Herr Schäfer sucht keine Medikamente. (Mr. Shepherd is not looking for medicines.)

Dr. Müller fährt kein Auto. (Dr. Müller does not drive a car.)


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